Senior Staff Writer
A dramatic fireworks show capped Independence Day celebrations Wednesday after patriotic programs, applauded by flag-waving Americans in Lewisburg's Rock Creek Park.
"This is one of the best Fourth of July celebrations that I've seen," said Elaine Huffnes, mother of Marc Golczynski, the third Marshall County man to be killed in combat during America's war on terror.
Staff Sergeants Golczynski, Todd Nunes and David Hierholzer were remembered by their Marshall County wrestling Coach Lou Scheuchenzuber, a 34-year veteran of the Army who mustered out as a staff sergeant himself and described "my boys" as humble, patriotic, team-playing heroes.
"Marc said Coach was his hero and now he's saying Marc is his hero," Huffines said.
Golczynski died in combat with Iraqi insurgents on March 27. His visitation was in Chapel Hill. His mother teaches science at the high school there. His April 4 funeral in Lewisburg was followed with burial in Wheel Cemetery.
Lewisburg's Independence Day program and fireworks had a "beautiful turnout," the fallen Marine's father, Henry Golczynski, said.
"This is what America is made of," Golzcynski said.
Mayor Bob Phillips and others have said in recent days that they've read accounts of statistics showing that more soldiers, sailors and Marines come from small towns than big cities. Some have implied that's because there's more opportunity in big cities.
That's been refuted repeatedly by Phillips and others who said it's because people in places like Lewisburg have a greater appreciation of their freedoms and act on it.
Hierholzer's brother, Brian, who's returning to duty in Iraq, was asked for his opinion about others' perception of a lack of opportunity in rural communities, and he replied, "That's a bunch of crap. Anyone can find opportunity."
Coach Scheuchenzuber said Golczynski, Hierholzer and Nunes "were from small town, rural America; salt of the earth type individuals with the values we all share; the sort of guys you would not mind living next door to. They were who we are; Middle class Americans."
Examples randomly found throughout the crowd Wednesday night included daughters of Marshall County families collecting money for their trip to a baseball tournament.
Enjoying the musical presentations were American Legion Post Past Commander Edwin Scott, 86, of Cedar Street, who led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and Betty Bigger of Cornersville Road who distributed American Flags that were waved during parts of the program.
Tony and Lucie Watkins of Colburn Drive and her husband, Tony, a Belfast volunteer fire fighter, attended with their 6-year-old son, Aaron, and Wilma and Doyle Gattis of East Berkley Circle, "adoptive grandparents" since the couples' backyard share a common lot line.
They enjoyed hot dogs, soft drinks and chips provided by the city Wednesday night as the Watkins' 18-year-old son, Jacob, is in basic training with the Navy at Great Lakes, Ill.
"He was 17 when he joined," Lucie Watkins said. "I signed the papers so he could join."
As for America's situation in the world now, she said, "It's scary," but she's proud of her son, explaining he joined "to make a better life for himself and his family."
In spite of uncertain times, love and loyalty were the reasons cited by Danielle Buse, 21, of Idaho, fiancee of Spec. Michael Totherow of Murfreesboro who attended Lewisburg's event with Capt. Robert Stanton and his fellow soldiers who presented the Bronze Star to SSgt. Hierholzer's parents.
Totherow is returning to Afghanistan in August, he said. Buse said, "I'm going to support him. It's all you can do."
SSgt. Golczynski's 9-year-old son, Christian attended with his mother, Heather, uncle Jon, and other relatives and grandfather Henry Golzcynski said, "I think he'll make a fine Marine someday."
Attendance at Rock Creek Park was more than 1,000; vastly exceeding expectations among planners from the City of Lewisburg and the Marshall County Tribune.